I recently spent a few days with my daughter at her California college campus. Now I think I am pretty technologically savvy and “well connected” in our virtual realm – at least for someone in my age bracket! Yes, I Tweet, blog, and post business updates via a number of platforms. I Skype, use voice recognition software, and text. . . although my kids have informed me I’m ridiculously slow at it!

But I found it truly amazing to see how “connected” my college kid is! Throughout the day I watched her, her teammates, and friends rapidly whip out their smart phones, read/reply to personal messages with a smile or smirk, and slip their phone out of sight again. This happened all day long – while eating, talking, or walking – whether alone or with others.

The “New Normal” Communication Habits of Digital Natives

I teach college students at a university campus – so it’s not like I don’t see these habits of communication in action with this age bracket each week! But I only see my college students for snippets of time.

“Shadowing” my college daughter made me realize how our next generation of digital natives possesses different “rules” of communication and normalcy of life. For example, it is socially fine to instant message or text or email someone while visiting face-to-face with someone else in their generation.

Yes, I can’t help but remind my kids that “older” people – like me! – appreciate a focused, face-to-face conversation, where technology is ignored as a sign of respect and value for our time together. My high school son knows this. . . therefore he has perfected his skill in giving me 100% eye contact while his thumbs text without looking ! (OK, I still have some parenting time left before he leaves to college!)

It was also fascinating to see my daughter’s normal communication habits in the evenings in my hotel. While she “did homework” on her laptop, she also frequently picked up her phone to respond to texts, intermittently clicked on Facebook and smiled as she read updates of her friends and then replied.

Occasionally she flipped over to her email and took care of items there. And while she did all of this, she enjoyed watching TV (a luxury in the hotel compared to her dorm room!), all with one ear open and the other plugged in to her iPod.

This style of “being” is the new normal: Always on and constantly connected.

One afternoon we walked into her dorm room where her roommate was fast asleep in a nap. With a bit too much noise, this girl woke up. And with her eyes barely open, she squinted as she focused her slumbering vision on the screen on her phone that she held. I’m sure much had happened in her virtual world of connectedness during her nap!

Even in my generation of “40-somethings,” my constant connections can distract me and decrease my focus and productivity. So it’s not like only the younger generations are feeling the ADHD results of being always connected!

How do we tap in to our best thinking, make gains from self-reflection, and continue to gain awareness from quiet time – when we lack consistent times of quiet?!?

How you can "Go Dark"

Answer: Disconnection. Strategic and disciplined times of “Going Dark” (yes, think of Jack Bauer on 24 if need be for the concept to make sense!) and turning OFF all technology for a block of time may be the answer. Mindfulness and self-awareness are known to be great tools in continual self and leadership development. This often requires bursts of disconnection.

Action Plan: Go Dark. Even if for brief periods of time – Go Dark. What could happen if you disconnected and followed God’s advice – “Be STILL and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)?